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Reports round-up: BT workers start voting on bosses’ rotten deal

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BT bosses’ offer of another £1,500 flat-rate increase really amounts to the same bad deal two years in a row
Issue 2834
CWU members at BT on strike at the beginning of the dispute (Picture: Guy Smallman)

BT workers—just one group of CWU union members striking this week—on strike back in July (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers at BT, Openreach and EE are voting on whether to accept a rotten pay deal between bosses and union leaders. The workers, members of the CWU union, have struck for nine days this year after BT Group bosses imposed a flat-rate pay increase of £1,500 on them in April.

This was a real-terms pay cut for all grades. Rather than overturn that, the deal all-but repeats the same for next year. It adds yet another flat-rate increase of £1,500 to be paid from January 2023 until September 2023.

The CWU says that the £3,000 total represents a 10 percent pay increase for some of the higher grades and 15 percent for some of the lowest. But this is over a period of 17 months.

And, being a flat-rate increase instead of a percentage of pay, it means some workers lose out by more than others. What’s more the union leaders’ statement on the deal hinted at a return to cooperation with BT bosses as they implement cuts.

“As part of the conversations with BT we have agreed to renew and strengthen the way we work together,” it said. “This will be important as the company seeks to deliver its commitment to reduce cost and improve efficiency.”

The vote is set to end on Thursday of next week. BT workers can win more if they reject the deal and keep fighting, by building on the strength that the united strike activity brought.

Nick Clark

Poor pay offer at Jacob’s crackers takes the biscuit

Workers at Jacob’s cracker factory in Liverpool were voting on whether to accept a pay offer as Socialist Worker went to press. After talks at the Acas conciliation service, the GMB union put management’s “final offer” to ballot to see if there is still enough support for the strike.

The deal includes a 6.5 percent increase for 2022 and a £500 one-off payment, and 3 percent for 2023 with a £250 one-off payment. Trainers would also receive £40 a month, and no further disciplinary cases will be processed beyond those that have already taken place once workers return to work.

The strikers, who have escalated to all-out action, went out demanding at least 8.5 percent—something the company could afford to do. Bosses’ deal would tie workers two years’ of real terms pay cuts, with inflation currently at 14.2 percent and still rising.

If workers vote to reject it, GMB officials should seek to build the profile and solidarity for the strike—and not call off action for anything less than a pay rise in line with inflation.

Fight over sackings at Felixstowe docks, but don’t forget pay

Dockers at Felixstowe in Suffolk organised a protest on Monday after bosses suspended seven Unite union reps and members. They have also begun balloting for strikes over the victimisations.

The 1,900 port workers staged strikes between August and the beginning of October for a pay rise. Bosses offered a 5 percent pay rise, followed by 7 percent and a £500 lump sum then 7.5 percent.

Yet as Unite begins consultative ballots over the issue of sackings, there’s little word on what’s happening with the pay dispute. It’s good that Unite wants action over bosses’ attacks on reps, which have also been seen at the Liverpool docks where workers are discussing whether to take action

But the huge fight over pay shouldn’t be forgotten. Liverpool dockers struck over pay at the same time as the Felixstowe strikes came to an end. Felixstowe dockers then worked a ship diverted from Liverpool. 

If coordinated action is called between the two sites over victimisation, a huge fightback could be launched. And it could bring the two key sites together.

Isabel Ringrose

A national cleaners’ strike, and shining Eurostar action

The first national rail cleaners strike is planned for 22, 23 and 31 of December. More than 1,000 RMT union members are set to walk out for £15 an hour, sick pay, decent holidays and pensions.

The strike will affect outsourcing companies including Churchill, Atalian Servest and Mitie. Some of these firms are raking in profits of over £100 million a year.

Over 100 Eurostar security staff were set to walk out on Friday and Sunday of next week followed by more strikes on 22 and 23 of December in a fight over pay.

Some of the workers are paid just £10.66 an hour. They have rejected a below inflation pay offer and voted 81 percent for strikes. The security staff are contracted out to the hugely profitable facilities management company Mitie.

Slow burn ballot for firefighters’ pay

Firefighters began balloting for strikes over pay from Monday of this week.

It comes after the members of the FBU union voted to reject a pay offer from fire brigade bosses of just 5 percent—a huge real terms pay cut following years of similar freezes.  The ballot is set to end on 30 January.

Strikes in pipeline at Baker Hughes

Over 200 workers at energy company Baker Hughes in Newcastle plan to strike later this month over pay after a 4.65 percent offer. Workers in the GMB union were set to strike between Monday and Thursday of next week, and then 12-18 January.

Bosses cancel Christmas holidays

Around 100 workers at the chemical company Thomas Swann struck on Wednesday last week.

The workers, members of the GMB union, took to picket lines after rejecting a 5.1 percent pay increase. To try and break workers’ spirits, bosses have cancelled all prebooked holidays over the Christmas break.

Will ballot lead to nuclear action?

Results of a consultative strike ballot by cleaners at the Sellafield nuclear power plant in Cumbria were set to be released as Socialist Worker went to press.

Bosses at outsourcer Mitie offered a pay deal of zero percent. The ballot, by members of the GMB union, closed on Friday of last week.

Wardens won’t give up £2,000 payment

Parking wardens in Wiltshire are set to strike again. The members of the GMB union are angry that the council is planning to take away their contractual unsocial hours payments.

That could cost them some £2,000 a year. Strikes were set to take palce on Saturday of this week and Saturday of next week.

College strikes in Cornwall and London

Members of the UCU union at Truro & Penwith College in Cornwall are continuing a long-running dispute over low pay. They were set to strike again on Thursday and Friday of this week and 10, 11, and 12 January.

Workers at Barnet and Southgate college in London have announced their plans to strike for two days, also over low pay. Workers are scheduled to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

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